By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 11, 2014) – As comparisons goes, it’s the highest praise that can be bestowed upon on a Rutgers defensive lineman, sort of like comparing another running back to Ray Rice or a tight end to Marco Battaglia or a linebacker to Khaseem Greene.
But Darius Hamilton, the highest recruited player in school history, is acting the part this summer.
So head coach Kyle Flood didn’t hesitate today when asked what past Rutgers player comes to mind when he sees Hamilton consistently disrupting play in the interior of the defensive line, as he has all preseason.
“When I think of the guys who were the most disruptive guys that I’ve been around since being here you think first and foremost about a guy like Eric Foster,” said Flood. “He had a similar skill set to what Darius has. They’re not the same but they’re similar. That would be the guy right now that he would remind me of.”
That’s the same Eric Foster who was a first-team All-America in 2006, a two-time team captain and the inspirational and physical leader of one of the best teams in school history.
“That’s a huge compliment,” said Hamilton. “He was a great player when he was here. I’ve watched a lot of his film. I’ve tried to take a lot of his game. He was a very disruptive player. I never mind being compared to a guy who played in the NFL.”
The 6-4, 260-pound Hamilton has done more than just live up to the lofty comparison to Foster this preseason camp. He has also lived up to the enormous hype he arrived with as the No. 11-ranked player in the country as a senior at Don Bosco Prep.
A dominant performance in today’s scrimmage at High Point Solutions Stadium was just the latest example.
“I think Darius was in the backfield quite a bit,” Flood said following the scrimmage. “One guy on defense can ruin the game for you and Darius would have ruined the game for us today on defense. I thought he did an excellent job.
“He had a sack early, he had a sack in the two-minute drill, he had a sack in the red zone – things that put you off schedule on offense and make it very hard to recover from.”
Hamilton says the improvement in his play is simply a matter of being more comfortable after starting 12 games last season and appearing in all 13 as a backup as a freshman in 2012.
“I think it started to come together for me midway through the season last year and I think that comes with me knowing the schemes and being comfortable with the playbook,” he said. “When you’re comfortable with the playbook and know it like the back of your hand you can go out there and play fast. When I’m able to play fast that’s when I let my emotion loose and that’s when I let my true ability come out.”
In part because of his play, but also due to his personality, Hamilton has emerged as a leader on defense with captain-like traits. He has become more vocal on the field, asserting himself with teammates as much as he does with opposing offensive linemen.
“Leadership is earned, not given,” he said. “I’m just going to come out and continue to work the way I’ve been working and put all my chips in the middle of the table every play. Wherever that takes me that’s where I’ll be as a player.”